...... Just as the carryin’ had been rough, the birthin’ was equally so. Nothing seemed to be happenin’ in proper order, and that worried Aunt Margaret. As LaVita pushed and cried and at times screamed, this child didn’t seem to want to be born. “Come on young’un, there’s lots of folks waitin’ on ya. Just come on out and say hello.”
Butch wanted to stay behind with his Pa to wait for the baby and both he and his Pa worried about how things were goin’. It was just unnatural for LaVita to fuss about anything, so her moanin’ and screamin’ alarmed them both.
Just about the time Aunt Margaret was getting’ ready to send John for the doctor, the head began to break through. “Oh, my Lord above!” she whispered as that large, oddly shaped head appeared, followed by a frail little body. LaVita had lapsed into a deep sleep, and Aunt Margaret thought, “Let her be. She’ll be needin’ all her strength to deal with this strange little boy-child.” She set about doin’ all the things needing doing to a new born child; cleaning, tying the chord and making sure the lungs were good, and they were; loud and gusty. After swaddlin’ him tight in a blanket, she laid him in the dresser drawer the other four had laid in. She went to the door and told the two waiting that both the Ma and baby were okay.
As they came into the room, Aunt Margaret turned her attention to LaVita, who was wakin’ up. Looked as though there was no extra blood lost, so she set about getting her ready to meet her new boy-child. John and Butch walked over to the drawer-bed to have a look in. John stood staring a few seconds, said, “What in God’s name?” and left the room and the house. Butch reached in, lifted the baby, clumsily as a six year old would, and said, “Well, hi new baby. Ain’t you a sweet little ‘un. Ma, we got us a funny lookin’ little boy, ain’t we?”
Butch carried the baby over to his Ma, who looked him over, kissing his head, hands and feet. “Well, what have we got ourselves? You’re gonna hafta grow into that big head, little boy.” She hadn’t been awake enough to hear John leave and asked, “John, what do you think about our boy?”
Aunt Margaret and Butch stood uneasily silent until six year old Butch, in his honesty, said, “Ma, he din’t seem to like ‘im and took off mad.” Honest words from a boy to a Mother’s heart that felt a stab of pain and guilt.
Perhaps if little Merten Ray, as he was called, had been an easy baby to care for John might have softened up to him and in time learned to love him or at least to accept him. But that wasn’t the case. He had trouble eating, cried a lot and required a lot of care. It didn’t take long for LaVita to understand that this little boy baby was not “right.” It was more than needin’ to grow into the big head. Butch helped with his care, trying to make life easier for his Ma. John, though, just seemed to grow colder to all of them. It was as though he couldn’t stand to look at the baby and was looking for somebody to blame.
He needn’t have looked far if only he had taken the time to talk to his wife, to show some concern for how she felt. Fact of the matter is that she also had been looking for a reason this had happened to her dear little Merten, and had settled on blaming herself for wishin’ so hard for a girl-child. “Might be God thinks I was tryin’ to have my way, not His.” What a burden for her to carry all by herself. She couldn’t bring herself to share those feelings with her mother, or even Aunt Margaret.
John and the older boys kept busy around the farm, their routine was not interrupted, but LaVita found little time, outside of the cookin’ and washin’ for the things she enjoyed doing, like knitting, taking walks and baking cookies. Her time was taken up with this fussy baby. She didn’t resent him, this queer little fella, but she often asked, “What is it you need little Merten? What can I do for you?” She found herself prayin’ even more, asking God to forgive her for tryin’ to meddle in His work, and sayin’ “Please, God, give me the wits of our Blessed Mother Mary, to know how to love and raise this child.” ......
Copyright 2020 by Joanne Miles Hannon. All rights reserved.